Training Report: Nashville SC Ready to Soak in Big Moment as MLS Debut Approaches
NASHVILLE - With training camp done and dusted, Nashville SC is kicking things into high gear to get ready for the club's Major League Soccer debut against Atlanta United this Saturday.
For some players, this will be their first MLS match. For others, it will kick off another season in a lengthy MLS career. No matter what, the players know it's going to be a special occasion for the club and for the city of Nashville, and they want to put on a show worthy of the stage.
Here are the news and notes from Tuesday's training session.
Every Moment Is A First - As an expansion MLS club, Nashville SC is making history every step of the way.
Every training session, film session, conditioning session and walkthrough is a first in the club's MLS history. Saturday's match against Atlanta United FC is no exception, and Head Coach Gary Smith hopes the standards set with each first along the way can help establish a strong club identity.
"You've got to think about pretty much everything that any team that exists at the moment has," Smith said. "They have an identity, they have a home that maybe they've played in for x amount of years that they can understand and appreciate and get the best out of. Everyone wants a home field advantage. I would say we don't have a brand-new fanbase because we had a nice core of fans last year, but if we're expecting upwards of maybe 50,000 at the weekend, there's a heck of a lot of fans there that maybe haven't watched a Nashville SC team play, certainly not an MLS team. There's an awful lot that goes into it, but I do believe over a period of time as we've seen in the last couple of years that our style of play and our identity over the last two years is connected very well with the fanbase that we had, and I would expect nothing different over the next couple of years."
Bonds Built - One of the most important aspects of preseason training camp is building chemistry. That's a difficult task for any club, much less an expansion club with an entirely new roster. However, even someone like defender Walker Zimmerman, who joined the roster only for the last week of training camp after being traded like LAFC, the Boys in Gold have made the process fairly seamless.
"I got there a little late but I had a great time with them in Tampa," Zimmerman said. "It's a good, really hard-working group. I was really surprised at the camaraderie that was already established within the first month of preseason. Hats off to everyone for really getting along, buying into this process. It's not easy but everyone's really excited for the weekend."
Seizing the Moment - Saturday's match against Atlanta will be a sporting spectacle with over 50,000 fans attending the nationally-televised match. With so much going on and plenty of pomp and circumstance, it can be easy to miss the big moments on the pitch.
Midfielder Dax McCarty hopes to take at least a few moments to soak it all in before getting down to business.
"I have learned to try and enjoy those moments because they don't come around often to be honest," McCarty said. "You only get one chance to make a good first impression and we hope that we do that coming Saturday. I will take a moment to try and soak it all in, try to find my family in the stands and give them a wave. But then once the game starts and once you're in between those white lines, it's all business. Hopefully we can give the fans what they deserve, which is a victory against a very good team. No matter what happens, it's going to be Nashville SC soccer from here on out. I think everyone is really excited about what that's going to look like not just on Saturday but going forward as well."
Nashville SC kicks off against Atlanta United FC at 7 p.m. on Saturday on Fox. Tickets are available.
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